Count Ciano, the Italian Foreign Minister, was once again on hand to record a revealing insight into the outlook of Benito Mussolini, the Italian dictator. It was Mussolini himself who had the largest personal responsibility for the dire position of the Italian armed forces.
Rodolfo Graziani had commanded the Italian forces in Libya in 1940 – and had been very reluctant to launch an invasion of British occupied Egypt in 1940, believing that the largely unmechanised Italian forces would be no match for the British, despite their superiority in numbers. When he was threatened with demotion he went ahead with Mussolini’s requested invasion.
The resulting series of humiliating defeats for the Italians had seen them thrown out of Egypt and Libya invaded. They had only been saved by the arrival of Rommel and German forces. Now Graziani was being used as a scapegoat for the debacle – although ultimately he was saved by his personal loyalty to Mussolini:
7th March 1942
The Duce, who is dissatisfied with the way things are going, said, “This war is not for the Italian people. The Italian people do not have the maturity or the consistency for such a tremendous and decisive test. This war is for the Germans and the Japanese, not for us.”
Luigi Cortese, Consul General in Geneva, informs us that fear of invasion is over in Switzerland because no one any longer believes in a complete German victory. In fact, the forecasts are of an entirely different nature. It is believed that, having once more banged her head against Russia in the coming offensive without achieving a decisive success, Germany will have to give up before winter. Feeling toward Italy has improved a lot. In fact, it is quite favorable for certain future possibilities which are hopefully being fostered in Switzerland.
Mussolini received Revel’s report following the investigation of Graziani. It appears to be very hard on Graziani. The Duce will give me a copy of it. Mussolini does not know whether to have him court-martialed or get rid of him administratively through retirement. I would be in favor of the latter solution in time of war. The Duce accuses Graziani of having been responsible for three serious losses to the country: a blow to its military prestige, the arrival of the Germans into Italy, and the loss of the empire. The Duce now feels that we must attack Tobruk, or else the British will deal us another blow.
Japanese admirals have informed us that they intend to proceed toward India. The Axis must move toward them in the Persian Gulf